Smart Growth Illustrated
Barrio Logan, San Diego, California
After the residents of Barrio Logan, a predominantly low-income industrial and residential community two miles from downtown San Diego, protested a series of industrial development proposals in their neighborhood, they took charge of the redevelopment process. Their vision helped create a redevelopment process that has begun to bear fruit.
The Barrio Logan neighborhood is separated from the rest of San Diego by an interstate highway. A spur of the highway, the Coronado Bay Bridge, divides the neighborhood in half. In the past, adjacent port and industrial facilities have discouraged non-industrial development in the community.
The first project built as a result of neighborhood participation in the development process was "Chicano Park," an award-winning park located underneath the Coronado Bay Bridge. The park is noted for its Mexican-style murals painted by local artists on the bridge abutments and pillars.
Following the city's designation of Barrio Logan as a Redevelopment Project Area in 1990, the community began to address other neighborhood priorities, including the siting of a neighborhood transit stop for San Diego's public trolley system. This was an important starting point for a neighborhood that relies heavily on public transit. Surveys have shown nearly half as many Barrio Logan residents drive alone compared to the rest of San Diego residents. The plan for Barrio Logan took advantage of the transit asset by following principles of transit-oriented design. It includes a grocery-anchored commercial center near the transit station and low-rise apartments nearby.
In 1995, the Metro Area Advisory Community, a non-profit developer, built the 144-unit Mercado Apartments with the help of the San Diego Redevelopment Authority and Bank of America. These apartments, which very low-income residents can afford, represent the first major new residential development in the neighborhood in 50 years. The tenants' extensive input into the apartment design led to a variety of design changes, including sacrificing dishwashers for more storage space and installing gas stoves rather than electric because they are better for heating tortillas. The attractive, high-density, affordable apartments also house vital community services, such as a laundry, a childcare center, a community meeting facility, and a social services office. These services have made the building a new center of social life in the community.
The commercial component of the project has been slower to develop. Initially, few established grocery chains showed interest.
However, market studies indicated the community could support a major Latino grocery store. Recently El Tigre Stores, a leading Mexican supermarket in southern California, has signed on to be the anchor tenant of the commercial center. The Mercado Apartments project received a 1997 Urban Land Institute Award for Excellence in Small Scale Residential Development. Its success has spurred more development. Chuey's Restaurant, a local institution, is expanding on a new site near the transit station. In 2003, the San Diego City Council approved a 45-unit, mixed-use, affordable housing development proposed by developer Urban Innovations a block away. This project is seeking additional approval and financing to add 111 housing units with 25,000 square feet of attached, mixed-use commercial and retail space.